Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
A simple fact: It’s not going to end well.
Even if it ends well, it’s not going to end well.
I still think we’re doing the right thing. But just because we’re doing the right thing doesn’t mean it will turn out well.
Honesty’s the best policy, right? So Bernie Madoff did the right thing when he confessed to his shameful swindle. But that confession didn’t turn out well for him, did it?
So, yes, we’re doing the right thing in Libya, but even if we hunt down Mr. Evil – Col. Muammar Gaddafi-Duck – and nail his stinking corpse to the Gates of Hell, that in no way means it’s going to turn out well.
Not for us.
And not for anyone else either.
Before we stepped in, it certainly did seem clear that Gaddafi was hell-bent on slaughtering thousands of Libyans who had had the sheer effrontery to object to his 40 years of thieving dictatorship. (“Forty years of putting the ‘dick’ in ‘dictator.'” Not a bad slogan. Feel free to use it Colonel G. No extra charge.)
No question, stopping that slaughter was the right thing to do.
Stopping a slaughter is pretty much always the right thing to do.
But that does not mean we have any idea how it’s going to turn out. Even if “our guys” – the rebels – win, we really have no idea who they are. And even if they turn out to be the freedom-loving, democracy-craving good guys we want to think they are, that still doesn’t mean everything will turn out hunky and/or dory.
Countries in that part of the world have a long history of jumping from the frying pan of one dictator directly into the fire of another.
Actually, I should not have said “in that part of the world.” Countries in much of the world – OK, most of the world – have a sad history of running for the nearest dictator.
Libya went from centuries under the Ottoman Sultans, to a quick turn under the Fascist Italian thumb of Benito Mussolini, followed by a brief spell under the undistinguished, undemocratic King Idris – who was kicked off his throne 40 years ago by Gaddafi. From sultans to Fascists to a loony kleptocrat. Not a good track record.
Since it is politically incorrect – and just plain rude – to suggest that our Arab brothers are “not ready for democracy,” let me draw lessons from a few other sources.
Just for fun, let’s start way back at the very dim edge of history: the Book of Exodus.
Everyone knows that story. When Moses led the Israelites out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, God sent the poor confused Jews wandering in the desert for 40 years.
God’s strategy was clever. (Well, as the fellow says, duh! He’s God. Of course he’s clever.)
The Jews, after generations of slavery, were not ready for freedom.
Forty years had to pass, a generation had to die, before the new, improved Israelites were ready for self-rule. (Under God’s direct supervision, of course. Self-rule with training wheels.)
How about a more modern example: Russia.
After centuries under the brutality of the czars (they didn’t call him Ivan the Terrible because he was such a swell guy), the Russian people fought a savage revolution in search of freedom – and wound up with Stalin. One of the most brutal dictators of all time.
Then, after more than 70 years under the Communist yoke, the Russians got yet another chance – and they rushed off frantically to turn their country over to yet another mean thug. Putin is better than Stalin – but really, how much of a recommendation is that? (Plays well with others. Isn’t as bad as Stalin.)
So, again, some people just seem to need a dictator running things. (Since we’re talking about Russians this time, at least it’s not racist.)
And since we mentioned Benito Mussolini a few sentences back, I have to say there’s still a bit of a question whether Italy is really ready for democracy. Does the name “Berlusconi” ring a bell?
But, cheap shots at Italy aside, the point is simple enough: Virtually all of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula is in flames and there’s no guarantee that any of it is going to turn out any better than it was before.
Some people there do want “freedom” (whatever that might mean). Some want democracy. Some want power. Many just want something – anything – new.
But what they – and we – are going to get is a deep mystery.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
And given that the old boss was a son of a bitch – well, it’s hard to have much hope for the new guy.
But, as I said back at the beginning, we’re doing the right thing – at last.
For too long, we – the United States of America, the beacon of freedom to the world – have been on the side of the oppressors. Time after time, in country after country, we have propped up dictators.
I read an interview with a 52-year-old man who was voting in the recent election in Egypt, voting for the first time in his life.
“Before, I was not even allowed into the polling station,” he said. “The police would tell me: ‘Go home. We already voted on your behalf. We know what is best for Egypt better than you.'”
Those were the people we – the United States of America, the beacon of freedom to the world – were supporting.
So, in the end, yes, I am sure we are doing the right thing. We are opposing the criminals.
And it’s not going to end well.
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